By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
September 5, 2001
Wasted Technology For Annoying Mail
Have you noticed how much time you spend dealing with email and
how little of the email you receive or send has any value?
The amount of junk mail you used to receive in the heyday of
direct mail is minuscule compared to the absolute garbage that
comes to you via the Internet and most of it from people
who are friends or at least acquaintances.
Once again, technology provides a wonderful breakthrough only
to be used in some innocuous way. It's as if after penicillin
was discovered its primary use became to flavor pancake mix.
We have a marvelous communication tool being employed largely
to irritate friends and acquaintances.
Please understand; I love communicating via email with people
with whom I have business, whether business business or personal
business. I like the fact that you can email a letter to the
editor or that I can send a scathing message to my least favorite
politician without the investment of a stamp, paper and envelope.
The speed with which you can communicate messages in times of
need is wonderful.
But email has an insidious side. For example, you can send the
same message to everyone in your address book with one click
of the mouse. The result is that when a proud mom decides to
email her mother about Junior's goal in soccer the day before,
as often as not she assumes everyone in her address book, from
family members she sees only at Christmas to former vice president
Dan Quayle, would be appreciative of this knowledge. Voila! Instant
I recently received several days' worth of diary entries from
a second cousin's walk on the Appalachian Trail, including fascinating
tidbits like the supper menu, dinner conversation and sleeping
accommodations from a family member with whom we normally have
Even worse are those with whom you may have legitimate correspondence
who decide you need constant encouragement, enlightenment, amusement
or inspiration and make it a point to forward to you anything
they think fits that category. A daily bombardment of scripture
may be someone's way of witnessing; to me it's an annoyance.
There are too many people with nothing better to do than to create
annoying email messages and attachments. I even had my column
emailed to me once; at least it truly was inspiring.
If the subject line says, "This one's a keeper," that
is reason enough to delete the file without opening it. In one
day's mail at the office last week, I received two forwards from
the same person, someone whose only previous contact had been
a letter to the editor. One touted inspirational messages and
the other 80 percent off on magazine subscriptions. Both had
attachments; I opened neither. I was so inspired I took the time
to call the sender and demand that no such trash be forwarded
Email is a technological advance that makes communication quicker
and easier. But if you have nothing to say, don't waste my time.
Feel free to email this to everyone in your address book.
The Jackson Herald
September 5, 2001
important for county
This year's elections to the various town councils in Jackson
County could prove to be a turning point for the community. With
nine incorporated towns, Jackson County has more than its share
of local government. For many citizens, that's a good thing because
our city governments are truly at the "grassroots"
On the other hand, we have long been dismayed by the lack of
initive shown by some of our local town leaders. Because of a
growing sales tax distribution, even our smallest towns now have
a steady source of income.
But many of our towns have not spent those funds to improve the
lives of their citizens. Instead, some towns have simply banked
the money, or begun paying their local leaders a higher salary.
We hope that one of the issues candidates will discuss during
this municipal election cycle is what projects they would like
to see done to improve the lives of their citizens. Towns should
not just exist for leaders, but rather because they provide a
needed service or benefit.
In some cases, that discussion has never been held. Perhaps this
election season it will be.
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
September 5, 2001
'New-New Math' has arrived
Those of us who were children of the 1960s will remember the
phrase "New Math." Born out of the space race and the
perceived lack of math skills in America, "New Math"
was a hot topic among our parents whose own math background was
rooted in more traditional concepts.
Now we have what some refer to as "New-New Math," or
if you believe its critics, "fuzzy math."
If you are a parent of an elementary student in the Jefferson
or Jackson County School System, you've probably gotten some
idea that the math books your children are bringing home this
year are different. Indeed, both school systems have adopted
a New-New Math series this year entitled "Everyday Math"
at the elementary school level.
In adopting that series, however, both systems find themselves
in the middle of one of education's most controversial topics
- what should math education in the lower grades look like?
Supporters of the New-New Math curriculums (called "constructivist"
programs because they emphasize letting students construct their
own solutions to math problems) say that the new teaching styles
will reach more children, especially kids from disadvantaged
backgrounds. Proponents also say that the New-New Math programs
place greater emphasis on "higher-order thinking skills,"
or concepts, and that those skills are important to be successful
on standardized testing. Finally, proponents say the new programs,
which employ a variety of games, are more fun for the kids to
learn than the old "drill-and-kill" math of the past.
But some critics of the New-New Math have been extremely vocal
in their opposition to the program. Last year, The Wall Street
Journal blasted New-New Math, including the "Everyday Math"
series, in an editorial saying, "It will take its casualties,
especially among the poor, adding to the already mounting costs
of the decline in national educational standards."
Parents across the nation have also organized to fight New-New
Math. In Fayette County, the school system abandoned "Everyday
Math" earlier this year in favor of a more traditional series
after several years of parent complaints. Parents in California,
Texas, Illinois and New York have also been vocal against New-New
Math programs in their local schools.
So what's the fuss over New-New Math all about?
Critics claim that these programs place too much emphasis on
process rather than on mastering basic skills. In "Everyday
Math," for example, students are taught several different
ways of multiplying, but the program does not emphasize memorizing
multiplication tables or the mastering of one method of multiplying
A critic of the "Everyday Math" series in Fayette County
wrote this about the lack of emphasis on basic skills: "It
is far more reasonable to provide a strong foundational mathematical
knowledge base to all students and supplement for problem solving,
than to provide strong problem-solving techniques without first
laying a strong foundation in the basics."
Another criticism of the program is its emphasis on "easy
numbers." In a New York Times article about New-New Math,
one parent said she "felt a lack of clarity" about
her son's math class because of the emphasis on estimating rather
than calculating specific answers. Instead of adding 71+19, for
example, New-New Math would convert the numbers to a more "friendly"
Other criticisms of "Everyday Math" include its endorsement
of using calculators in the early grades and some non-math material
(such as a question in one book: "If math were a color it
would be _____ because _____.") In Georgia, some critics
also say the "Everyday Math" series is not aligned
correctly with the state QCC guidelines.
Because of the national scope of the New-New Math curriculums,
a variety of groups have been created which urge a more fundamental
approach to math education. The granddaddy of those groups is
a website, www.mathematicallycorrect.com, where parents and educators
can get access to volumes of research on math education issues,
including reviews of specific textbook programs.
Reviews of the "Everyday Math" program for the second
and fifth grades by that organization are critical of the series,
saying the emphasis on basic skills is weak. While the review
did praise the program in some areas, such as counting money,
measurements and the multiplication of whole numbers in the second
grade, it rejected the series "due to the lack of support
for the mastery of central topics."
Locally, the reaction to the "Everyday Math" series
has been muted, although some teachers have expressed reservations
about the program. In the Jackson County School System, two teachers
on the math curriculum adoption committee reportedly voted against
the "Everyday Math" series, favoring a more traditional
approach to math education.
While the truth about New-New Math is probably somewhere in the
middle of the extreme views, it would not hurt for local parents
and education leaders to have some discussion over how this series
will be taught. Should the "Everyday Math" series be
followed to the letter, including using calculators in the early
grades, or should it be just one resource used to teach math
in addition to parts of other, more traditional programs? In
addition, how much time will teachers have to follow the "Everyday
Math" program and also bring in other math material to supplement?
If the entire debate sounds similar to the "phonics vs.
whole language" issue of a few years ago, it is. The New-New
Math was called "Whole Math" until that phrase fell
into disrepute during the Whole Language debate. The parameters
of the two issues are similar: should schools focus on process,
or should they stress basics? Can they do both successfully?
It may be called "New-New Math," but it's really just
another part of an Old-Old Debate.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.
The Commerce News
September 5, 2001
But Ban Video Poker Anyway
Hopefully, the General Assembly will ultimately ban video poker,
but Georgia citizens ought to feel a little hypocritical as the
state does its work.
We voters, after all, are the ones who opened the doors to legal
gambling in Georgia when we implemented the state lottery. And
while the lottery has paid for the tuition of countless Georgia
college students, now the state finds itself in the position
of protecting its own monopoly on legalized gambling.
One of the arguments though not the best one against
the proposed ban of video poker games is that the people who
enjoy gambling via video poker are not going to spend as much
time playing the Georgia lottery. In other words, we want people
to gamble as long as they gamble in the state's casino. Georgia
lost the moral high ground in the argument against gambling when
it entered into a racket in which the poor and ignorant are relieved
of their money in the hope of getting rich quickly. That the
proceeds go to arguably good causes of paying college tuition
and a statewide pre-K program do not make state gambling virtuous.
Nonetheless, in spite of the hypocrisy, Georgia should ban video
poker games. We've let the cat out of the bag with the lottery
and aren't about to reverse that decision, so the best thing
we can hope for is to keep legal gambling as restricted as possible
for as long as possible. The cost of policing the industry and
the damage it does to those who become addicted to the chance
at easy money justify the state's action.
The Vacation Is Over
Now that President Bush is back from his nearly month-long vacation,
hopefully he is well-rested, because the weeks ahead will prove
The president returns to Washington with members of Congress,
who while back in their districts have heard the concerns of
the faltering economy and declining consumer confidence. At the
same time, the reduced revenues due to the slowdown and Bush's
tax cut have left very little room for maneuvering in the budget.
Virtually any new spending will have to be offset by cutting
some other program.
But Bush, with limited backing from Congress and lukewarm public
support, will have to work tirelessly to get the rest of his
agenda approved. The president faces an education reform bill
which has passed Congress but not in a form he likes. His proposed
military reform has generated strong opposition from the military
and from key congressional leaders. Bush's energy bill, which
contains measures to allow drilling in environmentally sensitive
areas, is a lightning rod for criticism, his proposal for faith-based
initiatives got through the House but is in trouble in the Senate
and Democrats are poised to attack his trade bill.
There are other items too, so Bush will have his work cut out
for him. If he found the heat of his Texas ranch enjoyable, then
he may be ready for the political heat his agenda will create
in the weeks and months ahead. He may find it hotter in Washington
in November than it was in Texas in August.